Last time on WrestleMania: Through the Years… Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon clashed in a match that was 20-years in the making. WrestleMania XX returned to Madison Square Garden and gave the smart-fans the happy ending they were dreaming for. WrestleMania 21 went Hollywood, and launched John Cena and Batista to the top of the card. WrestleMania 22 went “Big Time”, with Rey Mysterio leaving the improbable World Heavyweight Champion, all in the name of the late-Eddie Guerrero. Billionaire’s and their avatar’s battled it out at WrestleMania 23, and Shawn Michaels forced Ric Flair into retirement at WrestleMania 24.
Lows: Any of the physical involvement of Roddy Piper and Jimmy Snuka. Both men looked so old and broken down, it was like I was watching Heroes of Wrestling all over again. Seriously, who thought Ricky Steamboat would be able to shake over a decade’s worth of ring-rust and drag this match out of the pile of garbage it seemed destined for? Triple H might have the worst luck (or inflated sense of self-importance), having once again closed a WrestleMania to one of the coldest crowds possible. I can’t comment on the feud itself, but the match felt very… standard. Like, if this was meant to be a blood feud, I didn’t quite get it, and to be fair, having to follow Undertaker/Michaels is just as bad as having to follow Hulk/Rock at WrestleMania X-8. The Battle Royal was a joke, won by “Santina” Marella, but we’ll get into that in the next section.
Anything You Might’ve Missed: Pretty much all the women brought back for the Divas Battle Royal. Thanks to a lame live performance of Kid Rock, introductions were completely skipped, and with 90% of the women involved being blonde and tanned and no other distinguishable features, good luck pointing out who is who. What the hell is the point of this throwback if you don’t acknowledge anyone? Imagine the Mania X-Seven Gimmick Battle Royal, without introductions. It’s just another shitty Battle Royal. CM Punk is the first repeat winner of the Money in the Bank briefcase. Ricky Steamboat is making his first in-ring appearance in almost 15 years, and his first with WWE in nearly 20. Carlito and Primo defeated John Morrison and the Miz (I want to say they had a cute team name, but maybe not) to unify the two Tag Team Championships.
Overall Rating: C
Take out Undertaker vs. Michaels, and you've got a disappointing show. Even with it, the poor card placement really hurt the WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Championship matches. I don't think either would've been show stealers, but the lack of crowd heat makes a big difference at a show like WrestleMania. There's a lot of undercard junk, some because of time limitations, and others because someone thought a couple of 60 year olds should be wrestling on PPV.
Lows: Bret Hart “officially” stepping back into the ring. I’m not going to lie, I watched the episode of Raw when Bret returned, the first time I recall watching WWE TV in quite a while, but nobody could’ve expected a good match out of him, just because of his physical limitations. Sure as heck, what we got was a weak garbage match with little crowd heat, and some of the worst commentary, thanks to Mr. Know-Nothing Matt Striker. Also, who thought Bret Hart’s music needed a remix? IT WAS FINE TO BEGIN WITH, DAMMIT. Most of the card feels thrown together, especially with both World Titles changing hands at the previous PPV, and jumbling things a bit. Mysterio vs. Punk feels more like a feud starter than a satisfying conclusion, and no shocker, they kept feuding until the Summer. Any time Vickie Guerrero is on T.V. Not because she’s not a good character, but for the degrading commentary and constant jokes at her expense, based on her physical appearance. Even when their Be-A-Star campaign started, they would constantly mock her weight.
Anything You Might’ve Missed: I really don’t have anything for this one, so instead of just leaving it out, I’d just address it and then ramble about whatever. Yoshi Tatsu, yes, THAT Yoshi Tatsu, actually won the pre-show Battle Royal, last eliminating Zack Ryder… yes, THAT Zack Ryder. I only put so much emphasis because I came back to the product in the Fall of 2012, and both men were HUGE geeks at that point, and Tatsu might as well have been Bob Cook or Tim Woods from the old ham-n-egger collection of the late 80’s, jobbing so quickly and easily. This marked Bret Hart’s first match since retiring in the early weeks of 2000, and obviously his first match for the WWF since the 1997 Survivor Series in Montreal.
Overall Rating: B-
The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels is the only match that elevates this above the status of just another show. There’s a handful of solid matches that don’t stand out as anything special, and the undercard is really cobbled together more than usual. The ho-hum “everything feels the same” atmosphere from all the matches just makes it feel like “another PPV”, but in front of a much larger audience. The worst part of the whole show, though, is the stuff between Bret and Vince. It just didn’t work, it wasn’t worked wisely, logically, intelligently, or any other simple words to express lacking intelligence. This match alone as strong enough to almost sink the entire show up until the Main Event.
Lows: Can this whole section be devoted entirely to Jerry Lawler vs. Michael Cole? How do I express the levels of awfulness this turd ended up being. WWE has had some luck in the past pulling magic tricks with non-wrestlers, but Michael Cole was clearly in there to be an awful comedy wrestler. Second, it’s TOO LONG. 5-minutes would’ve been too long, but bell to bell, it’s almost 15-minutes, plus introductions, PLUS post-match shenanigans. Then you have a screw-job finish. A SCREWJOB FINISH TO PROTECT MICHAEL COLE, against Jerry Lawler. What a shame this is Jerry Lawler’s only in-ring appearance at WrestleMania. In an awful “comedy” match, losing by screwjob, to Michael Cole. The Main Event (the show-closer, that is) is one of the weakest in recent history, and the MIZ is the defending WWE Champion. Despite winning clean, babyfaces Edge and Christian vandalize Alberto Del Rio’s Rolls Royce, just because. John Morrison’s unprofessional attitude over the inclusion of Trish Stratus in favor of his real-life girlfriend.
Anything You Might’ve Missed: Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan, for the U.S. Title, is bumped to being a Dark Match, probably because 20-minutes was given to the Rock’s opening monologue, and then there’s the travesty of Lawler vs. Cole eating up half-a-damn-hour. The match only goes 4 minutes or so before it’s turned into an impromptu Battle Royal, featuring all the undercard geeks, and won by “Punjabi Playboy” the Great Khali. Edge makes his last in-ring appearance, being forced into retirement due to lingering injuries and health concerns. Due to licensing issues, the DVD version edits out Triple H’s (Metallica’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls”) and Undertaker’s (Johnny Cash’s “Ain’t No Grave”) entrance music. Kofi Kingston is subbing for Vladimir Kozlov, who sucked too much to make it on the card.
Overall Rating: D
I was honestly tempted to give this a solid “F”, but then there’s too many good matches to go that low. On the other hand, even though there’s some good matches peppered throughout the card, how many of them really meant anything, or had a lasting appeal? The opener was meant to continue a storyline that had to be dropped due to Edge’s retirement, Cody vs. Rey was just another match, and Orton vs Punk was just a match for two higher profile names to get on the card. That leaves Undertaker vs. Hunter as the only good match with lasting impact, and that was to build to a rematch. Cena/Miz stunk, Lawler/Cole was an abomination to wrestling, and the overall feel of the show was very “meh.”
Lows: Where else to start but at the start of the PPV? It doesn’t matter if it’s Daniel Bryan, but the idea that a World Title Match, at WrestleMania, a scripted spectacle, ends in 18-seconds to create this aura of “unpredictability”, is just laughable. Not only did it cheapen the match and the participants, but cheapened the fact Sheamus WON THE ROYAL RUMBLE to get the honor of having the shortest World Title Match ever, and it opens the PPV, too. The crowd, rightfully pissed off, hijacked the next hour or so before Undertaker and Triple H won them back. The undercard is particularly weak, even in comparison to other more recent WrestleManias. While I enjoyed the hell out of Undertaker vs. Triple H, I can see how it would turn other people off.
Anything You Might’ve Missed: Epico and Primo retained the Tag Team Titles against Jimmy & Jey USo and Justin Gabriel & Tyson Kidd on the YouTube Kickoff Show. If you read my original recap, I was kind of out of the WWE loop, and was unfamiliar with almost all involved. Not my shining moment in covering the WWE product. The “Team Teddy vs. Team Johnny” concept was a direct rip-off from the “Team Jacob vs. Team Edward” garbage that was spawned from the god-awful Twilight Saga (can you tell how much I despise the crap? Well, it sucked.) Thank GOD that fad is as dead as TNA. Umm… Big Show’s lack of success at WrestleMania was the selling point of his feud with Cody Rhodes? Not a whole lot for me here. This was the third WrestleMania to be broadcast on April Fool’s Day.
Overall Rating: B
You’ve got three really good-great matches, and then a bunch of junk. The first hour is pretty hard to get through, either because of poor work or incompetent booking, but once we get to the first high profile match (that isn’t pushed into an 18-second squash), things take an extreme turn for the better. The Undertaker/Triple H Rematch is a near-classic, Jericho and CM Punk could’ve had a great match just sleepwalking their way through things if they wanted, and Cena/Rock turned out to be one of the biggest Main Events in company history. The attempt at breaking a record is a waste of time, and it really makes you question what they have against Sheamus/Bryan at WrestleMania, but other than that, the negative stuff is just filler undercard.
Lows: I don’t feel I’m alone, but I hated Rock/Cena simply for the predictability of the whole thing. WWE goes out of its way of giving CM Punk a title reign spanning 15-months, and it ends in such a lame-duck way, because God knows, Cena vs. Rock HAS to be for the WWE Title. Yes, Mania 28 did great business, but how often do sequels work in wrestling? They just don’t, and this was no exception, financially or from an entertainment POV. Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H deliver one of the most boring, plodding matches you could imagine, and has a lame “retirement” stipulation tacked on, as if Hunter would retire. Chris Jericho’s annual return is… well, saying wasted would mean it meant something. Jobbing to FANDANDO is even lower than being wasted. It’s a one-dimensional gimmick you knew WWE would give up on. Ryback vs. Mark Henry was a huge stinker and the finish made zero sense, no matter which way you look at it.
Anything You Might’ve Missed: The Kickoff Show, featured on YouTube, included the Miz defeated Bad News Barrett for the Intercontinental Championship. Don’t worry Miz-Haters, he dropped the title right back to Barrett the following night on Raw, site of one of the most vicious smark crowds in WWE history. CM Punk’s ring attire was a throwback to the Undertaker’s color-scheme from the mid 90’s. Despite several teases in the weeks prior, this was the in-ring debut of the Fandango gimmick. Also making his in-ring after weeks (or months, in this case) of hanging around is Big E. Langston, in a less successful debut.
Overall Rating: C-
Mostly a forgettable show. The best match probably falls under the personal bias folder, and everything else is so average, it’s hard to get excited. John Cena vs. The Rock was such a turn off, and to this day, I can’t understand the need for such predictability. The undercard is mostly ho-hum, and usually I wouldn’t call attention to it, but everything else on the show was-ho-hum, too. Alberto Del Rio vs. JACK SWAGGER for the World Heavyweight Title in 2013? Triple H vs. Brock in a sequel to a match that nobody was that into, and delivered even further from where they wanted to be than before. When I look at the card as a whole, I see a disjointed mess. A show thrown together because beyond “Cena vs. Rock II”, in the eyes of whoever put the finishing touches on the show there wasn’t any need to put much effort into it. It’s not near the worst WrestleMania because the work was mostly good, it’s just so uninspired.
Lows: I hate to go there, because everyone else will, but Undertaker vs. Lesnar was kind of whatever after repeated viewings. I’m fine with the finish, because here we are, one year later, and I’m STILL shocked they had Lesnar end the streak. The match itself was just whatever, and you can make the excuse that Undertaker was hurt early. If he was that hurt, then call for the match quicker, instead of risking further injury, especially when you’re in the ring with a monster like Lesnar who throws people around like sacks of potatoes. Not that the match deserved more time, but the women, 14 of them, are crammed into one match, and with the exception of A.J. Lee, no one else gets so much as an introduction, let alone an entrance. It was painfully obvious that there wasn’t going to be a title change, unless the point was to further devalue a Championship.
Anything You Might’ve Missed: The Kickoff Match was a pretty darn good 4-corners Tag Title Match, featuring the Usos successfully defending the titles against The Real Americans (Cesaro and Swagger), RybAxel, and Los Matadores. Typically, the Kickoff Match goes 7-9 minutes, but this nearly went 20, so it’s probably for the better it wasn’t crammed into an already loaded PPV. Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Alexa Bliss are the unnamed women featured in Triple H’s ring entrance. WWE made sure their camera crew didn’t pan over the casket with “CM Punk” on it for enough of an established shot for home viewers to notice. A segment featuring Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, Roddy Piper, Paul Orndorff (with ridiculous Yosemite Sam mustache), Mean Gene Okerlund, and even Pat Patterson was used as a throwback to the first WrestleMania Main Event.
Overall Rating: B+
I know you can say this is bias based on how recent this show was, but taking that away, let’s look at what we have to work with: You open and close the show with 4+ star performances that are centered around the Main storyline. John Cena and Bray Wyatt deliver a strong performance in the undercard. The Undertaker streak ending is going to be one of the most memorable moments of modern era WrestleMania’s, regardless of match quality. The Battle Royal was better than average, thanks to a strong finish. The “worst” matches on the card were the clusterfuck of a Diva’s Title Match, which was better than you’d think, but still not very good, and a 2-minute destruction of Kane and the New Aged Outlaws, courtesy of The Shield. It’s not a perfect show, but everything felt like it was hitting the notes it needed, and overall, a very satisfying 4-hours of wrestling.
Thirty years of WrestleMania are in the books. My head hurts just thinking about how much time I spent going through them all, some good, some bad, a few absolutely awful, but I’d do it all over again because I love professional wrestling. Even on the weaker shows, WrestleMania always feels like the show of the year, and more often than not, at least for the last decade or so, delivers even when the build up fails. What does WrestleMania 31 hold for us? Will we kick off the Era of the Roman Empire? Will the Undertaker’s losing streak continue at the hands of Bray Wyatt? Will Sting and Triple H produce some magic and have a good match? Will John Cena defend the honor of the United States and finally hand Rusev his first defeat in WWE? Which geek will have the honor of walking away with the Intercontinental Title? Daniel Bryan? Maybe even STARDUST? Who will win the 2nd Annual Andre The Giant Battle Royal? Will the unlikely alliance of Paige and A.J. finally take down the Kardashians of the WWE? Will Cesaro and Kidd retain their Tag Team Gold over a bunch of JTTS teams and the Usos? So many questions that need answered… maybe in 30 years, we’ll pick things up with another 30 years of WrestleMania.